Julian Borger

Washington: A U.S. soldier has pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of three members of her family near Baghdad in March in one of the most brutal examples of attacks on civilians in Iraq.

The soldier, Specialist James Barker, also agreed to testify against three other soldiers accused of the crimes. He agreed to the plea in return for a guarantee that he would not face the death penalty, according to his lawyers.

The murders took place on March 12 in Mahmoudiya, about 32 km south of Baghdad. Prosecutors allege that a group of five soldiers stationed at a checkpoint there raped the girl, burned her body to hide the evidence, and killed her father, mother and six-year-old sister.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006